Visualizations and layers – storytelling evolving


While researching methods from around the world, in order to see how I can incorporate the best practices into my daily work, I’ve stumbled upon a great number of interesting solutions, methods and principles. One of these, that I felt resonated very clearly with the post I wrote last week about ”Layered Storytelling”, is an interesting, in-depth look at the work Giorgia Lupi and the Accurat Studio have been doing together with the Italian publication Corriere della Sera over the past few years. They sum up their philososphy thus:

Experimental visualizations design should always aim at balancing conventions and familiar forms people are comfortable with, and novelty: truly imaginative visuals able to attract individuals into the exploration, able to transform the strange of any visual experiment we include into the known, and ultimately able to invite readers to explore the richness of the stories lying behind.

Now, does this sound like we’ve heard it before? Yes, indeed. We – no matter what kind of creators we are – would like nothing more than to create something compelling and engaging enough for our users / readers / listeners / viewers to want to learn more, to jump down the rabbit hole, to – indeed – ”explore the richness of the stories lying behind”.

In the case talked about in the link, the subject is a publication, which puts its own strains and demands on the design of the narrative and the complex visualizations. When I look at the processes that Lupi describes, I see a narrative – perhaps fictional, perhaps factual, perhaps something in between – that plays out over a number of platforms. The lead-in can be a short Snap on Snapchat, or why not a witty meme over on Facebook or Reddit, leading to the exploration of everything beyond, on other platforms.

What I really like about the work Accurat have done with the data-visualizations though, is something I feel could be incorporated into other fields.

If we think of our story on different layers, it is logical that certain layers should have different purposes and different traits than others. Some are dependent on the characteristics of the layers themselves – social media layers are for sharing and reaching many people, long-form video on Vimeo or YouTube are for telling a story from beginning to end in a fulfilling and hopefully entertaining and immersive way, picture-based media like Insta are for conveying more of a feeling, an impression of the tone of the story and storyworld (and point / lead to deeper stories) and so on.

But what Accurat do, and what I feel would be beneficial for us as well, is to create reading guides for anyone wanting to take part of the content. A hands-on guide, telling WHY the different parts are created and HOW they are supposed to be read and understood. This very hands-on method would lead to meta-content that helps everyone involved understand how different parts fit together – and if we do not want to break the fourth wall into tiny pieces, we can add this guide as another piece of our story, if we manage to craft it well enough. As Lupi states:

Every time we aim at moving away from mere quantity in order to pursue a qualitative transformation of raw statistical material into something that will provide new knowledge: unexpected parallels, not common correlation or secondary tales, to enrich the main story with.

And that’s exactly what we need to do as well. Read Lupi’s post, it is highly enlightening. The methods they have for mindmapping out correlations between different pieces of content are a direct parallel to how you draw up a transmedia landscape and story world for a narrative, while their thoughts and principles regarding visualizations, legends, design of different pieces and layers in order to help the user read it all as correctly and fluently as possible… all of this is highly beneficial to think about for any storyteller. And what it will lead to – what kind of new literacy possibilities arise from people beginning to fathom stories in new ways – I can only guess at.


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